Whitman boy honored for aid to fallen officer’s family
A hot, humid week of DARE Camp recreation and anti-drug lessons closed on Friday, July 27 with an emotional ovation for a 7-year-old Whitman boy who didn’t even attend the event.
But Brady Proto’s compassion for the family of Weymouth Police Sgt. Michael Chesna — raising $1,100 for them at a lemonade stand — earned him the traditional cheer of “Outstanding!” as campers raised their arms to make the top of an “O.”
Brady was asked to lead campers, their families and Plymouth County law enforcement officials, including about a half-dozen chiefs of police, in the pledge of allegiance. He was then presented a plaque of appreciation by District Attorney Timothy Cruz and Sheriff Joseph McDonald.
He’s also been invited to tour the Hanson Police Station with DARE/School Resource Office Bill Frazier.
After leading the audience in a moment of silence for all officers killed in the line of duty, Cruz offered his appreciation to Brady Proto for his aid to Sgt. Chesna’s family.
Chesna was killed in the line of duty on Sunday, July 15 when a suspect allegedly attacked him with a rock and repeatedly shot the officer with his own gun.
“Sgt. Chesna was a resident of Plymouth County and his death had a profound effect on all of us, young and old,” Cruz said. “A 7-year-old boy from Whitman, Brady Proto — who led us all in the pledge of allegiance today — was so affected by what happened to Chesna that he went out and he raised $1,100 by selling lemonade.”
Cruz said Brady’s selfless action “caught all of our attention” so the county’s police chiefs and officers, sheriff, and Cruz took the opportunity to thank him for his “outstanding act of kindness” with an Outstanding Achievement Award cited Proto’s gesture.
Cruz also presented service awards to three DARE campers who followed the rules and performed above and beyond what was expected of them. Officer Robert Quigley Peer Service Award was presented to Katie Bondar; the Officer Helen Gray Student Service Award was presented to Taylor Cunningham. Both the officers had served the Marshfield Police Department. The Whitman Officer Gerald Mont Student Service award was presented to Benjamin Carr by Whitman School Resource Officer Kevin Harrington.
Retiring police officers, and DARE camp volunteers, Fred Mello of Carver and James Wigmore of Duxbury were also saluted and the annual five-way tug of war event has been renamed the “Wiggy War.”
“This camp has been going on since 1994 and every year it gets bigger and bigger,” host DARE officer Frazier said in his opening remarks. In its 24th year, about 625 youths from Plymouth County communities attended the five-day camp at the invitation of their local police departments. He credited Cruz with the camp’s existence and success.
Cruz, in turn, thanked the communities, police and fire departments of Whitman and Hanson — as well as the school district — for use of the WHRHS building and grounds. He also thanked the many businesses that contributed food, funds or other donations to make the camp possible.
He stressed that the camp, which teaches and reinforces drug awareness lessons, is funded in large part by money seized in narcotics arrests and the donations he had mentioned. The camp has only been funded by the state once in 24 years.
“We felt, as the funding was non-existent, that the program was too important to let go,” Cruz said about the use of forfeited drug funds. “We take their money and give it back to the community and a big chunk of that goes to you.”
On Monday, July 23, Cruz spoke about the DARE program after addressing campers during opening ceremonies.
“DARE has changed over the years,” he said. “DARE here in 2018 is not the same as it was back 10 years ago.”
He said part of that difference is the need to reach kids at a younger age especially now, in the face of the opioid epidemic, the fentanyl and carfentanyl issues going on and marijuana legalization.
“The kids have a lot of challenges that they face and it’s really incumbent upon us to open their eyes and to tell them about the dangers so they don’t go down that wrong path.”
Vaping, which contains high levels of nicotine, is another challenge that communities and schools must control, said Cruz.
“A lot of kids are vaping in school and I think its incumbent upon each school district to make sure that kids are not vaping in school and the school resource officers do their job to make sure [to stress to students about] that path of continually smoking nicotine where that may lead somebody to the next step.”
He also said a blanket decriminalization of drugs is not an answer to the nation’s drug problems.
“We live in a world right now where the biggest drug problem that we have is alcohol,” he said. “Alcohol is legalized and that still brings all sorts of problems to us so when you’re talking about dangerous drugs like opiates [and] prescription meds, when you’re talking about methamphetamine, LSD, you’re talking about cocaine, crack — it’s important that we get that stuff off the street and we control it through illegalization.”
Friday’s graduation ceremony concluded with the introduction of the 24 teams of campers, with the top three finishers in the cheer competition performing their cheers.